I’m now starting work on my 5th competency: Servant Leadership in Technology Facilitation and Collaboration. As part of my work for this competency, I’ll be sharing some book reviews.
Malphurs, A., & Malphurs, M. (2003). Church next : using the internet to maximize your ministry. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel.
The book begins with a summary of the problem of American Christianity in decline, with statistics and descriptions of the problem. Next the authors discuss issues of reaching the buster and bridger generations (also known as Gen X and Gen Y). They propose a theology of change which makes a distinction between the functions of the church which are Biblically mandated (i.e. mission, worship, and the “together” mandates), and the forms of the church, which may change in different cultures and different times. In this section, the authors also describe the concept of postmodernism and how it affects how current generations view church and are reached by the gospel. Finally, the book ends with a review of the importance of the Internet, how the Internet works, and specifically how to use the Internet in ministry.
Since I’m already very comfortable with the Internet, the sections explaining it were mostly review and I skipped over them. However they are well written for lay and clergy who are uncomfortable with the Internet. The main contributions from this book for me were the background principles that provide a “why” for using the Internet for ministry.
- Some of the church’s functions which are mandated by the Bible include: teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread, prayer (Acts 2:42); community (Acts 2:44-45); worship and evangelism (v 47).
- Examples of forms include meeting in house churches (Act 2:46, 8:3, 12:12), meeting in the temple (Acts 2:46).
- Forms can be understood as the method of ministry. Paul set an example of “becoming all things to all people” and adapting to the needs of those he meant to reach (1 Cor 9:22).
- Forms may fit along a continuum of legalism to liberty to license. Legalism puts restrictions on the church that aren’t found in Scripture (i.e. what time to meet). Liberty is freedom within God’s law/Word. License removes any Biblical restrictions.
These principles and ideas form the basis of a theology of change and therefore reasoning on why to use the Internet in ministry.
I’m already involved in my church’s web ministry (www.pmchurch.org) and (www.pmchurch.tv) and we are doing many of the things listed in the book. On page 131, the authors list some ways that churches are using the web for ministry:
- Encourage visitors to attend their church (we’re doing that)
- Post mission statements, sermons, text concerning faith (we’re doing that)
- Links to denominations and faith-related sites (we’re now discouraging this due to link-rot)
- Links to Scripture studies or devotional material (we’ve dabbled in this and could revisit it)
- Post schedules, meeting times, communications (yes, email announcements, but need to get more people to sign up for the listservs)
- Post photos of events (mixed success on this; it’s hard to do consistently and keep fresh)
- Post youth group material (we’re doing that)
- Material promoting missionary work (our TV ministry does this)
- Seek volunteers for congregational work (new “Get Involved” section does this)
- Provides space for prayer requests (we’re doing this)
- A sign-up feature for classes/programs (we do this for the women’s ministry programs)
- Allows online fundraising (not doing this with very specific reasons why)
- Webcasts worship services (we’re doing this, but not live)
- Provides discussion spaces for study or prayer groups (not doing this)
As I read through the ideas, I realized that I’d really like to see us find ways to minister to those getting the podcasts. Is there a way we could connect them in to online small groups? We have some other seminars that would make great little online group studies as well. I wonder how the FAST scripture memorization group is doing with their new online training. I think we could develop some cool things with this, if a few people had time to commit to it. I wonder if anyone would pay for it to help cover the cost? Or if donations would cover the cost? It’s certainly something to keep considering.
This was a useful book to explain WHY a church should be using the Internet, and had suggestions for even veteran online churches.